Lehigh Valley

Bethlehem Council sets aside parking fine increases for now

BETHLEHEM, Pa. - Bethlehem City Council chose to postpone indefinitely a vote on a pair of proposed ordinance amendments that would raise a range of parking-related fines in the city at its Wednesday meeting.

Councilman Bryan Callahan was the lone dissenter in the 6-1 vote.

Parking meter violation fines would be raised from $10 to $15 under one amendment.

Mayor Robert Donchez had previously decided to raise the meter rates from $1 to $1.50 starting Jan. 1.

Under another amendment, most other parking violations would be raised to $20. The city parking authority had requested the fine hikes. The $20 fine would be $10 or $15 higher than current fines depending on the violation.

The authority also proposed a $100 fine for parking in a handicapped space, double the current penalty.

President Adam Waldron said Kevin Livingston, the city parking authority’s executive director, had called him Sunday night asking for the parking meter increase ordinance to be tabled.

Livingston had said the board needed more time to mull the fine increase, Waldron said.

Callahan said Wednesday was the first time he had heard of the request, adding he wished he would have been informed of it.

He labeled the parking authority calling Waldron outside of a council meeting “backroom dealing.”

Donchez said funds from the increased fines could go to improving infrastructure, including existing parking garages.

The city is looking into buying a lot at Polk and Third streets to build a new parking garage.

Donchez said he hoped construction on the garage on Polk Street would begin sometime in 2019.

The parking authority could come to the council with detailed funding recommendations regarding the fine increases in early 2019, he said.

Councilman J. William Reynolds said he agreed with the need for the meter increases, since they would push residents to find long-term parking.

Reynolds said the postponement would give the parking authority more time to present further details on how the parking authority would need to spend the funds from the potential fine increases.

Callahan said the current parking meter rates are not enough to deter people from not paying the meter. The meter increase would be enough to pay for the Polk Street garage, Callahan said. The other parking fine increases could also help fund the repair or replacement of garages on Chestnut Street, he said.

The Chestnut Street project would not take place for at least five years, Waldron said.

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